Samsung scion Lee pardoned for bribing former president



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The de facto leader of the manufacturing conglomerate Samsung received a presidential pardon Friday, wiping the billionaire scion’s criminal record clean after a massive bribery scandal that ignited nationwide protests in 2017.

Lee Jae-yong, who goes by Jay Y. Lee in the West, had been imprisoned for bribing South Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye, but was paroled after serving 18 months behind bars. The pardon allows Lee to formally resume control of the semiconductor and smartphone maker, clearing what had been a five-year employment ban as part of his sentence.

Business leaders and the broader public have backed Lee’s release on the belief that freeing him would inject a competitive boost into the nation’s economy.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to make a new start,” Lee said in a statement following the announcement of the pardon. “I will work hard to fulfill my responsibility as an entrepreneur,” he said.

Recent polling in South Korea showed popular support for the pardon, with more than three-quarters of the public backing it.

“In a bid to overcome the economic crisis by revitalizing the economy, Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong, whose suspended prison term ended recently, will be reinstated,” the South Korean government said in a statement, reported by the Financial Times.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, who was sworn in earlier this year, is a first-time politician and former prosecutor general who began his five-year term as the nation faces an array of economic challenges: soaring housing prices, deepening income inequality and the reverberations of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yoon, 61, must also work alongside a parliament controlled by the opposing party, governing over a divided electorate that voted him into office with the narrowest margin in the country’s democratic history.



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